U.K. military personnel prepare to leave Kabul, as the British government winds down its operation to airlift civilians, diplomats and troops out of Afghanistan ahead of the August 31 deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal.
READ MORE: The final American evacuation flights from Afghanistan, likely Tuesday, will be the most perilous. They will carry the last detachments of rearguard U.S. troops out of the country and will have no friendly ground force to protect them, Western military officials say.
They will have to depend on Taliban fighters to ensure no rocket or mortar attack is launched by Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, on the airport as the rearguard draws down, or as the planes take off from the airport, say American and British officials. The final flight will be highly risky, they admit.
General Nick Carter, chief of Britain’s Defense Staff, said Saturday everyone should be aware of the daunting test U.S. commanders and soldiers will face in trying to ensure the final planes leave Afghanistan safely.
“We should be holding our breath and thinking of that last plane and what a challenge it's going to be for those brave people,” he told Britain’s Sky News.
Britain will have ended its evacuation operations Saturday, but the final British aircraft will be departing under the watchful eye of U.S. ground forces. Thirteen U.S. servicemen and at least 170 Afghan civilians were killed after an Islamic State suicide bombing Thursday near the airport, prompting many western countries to scramble to complete their final evacuation flights from Afghanistan. The Pentagon said at least 18 troops were injured in the attack.
Many of the Afghan civilians killed were left piled in a sewage ditch, and at least 200 were wounded, according to Taliban officials.